Jackie Goldberg is one of the premier advocates for children and public education in California and, indeed, the nation. She was a classroom teacher for 17 years, a member of the Los Angeles school board, and a member of the Legislature, rising to chair of the State Assembly Education Committee. She is a legendary figure to supporters of children and public schools.

She writes in the Los Angeles Times that the LAUSD board must act to reduce class sizes, which in some schools, exceed 40 students.

A few excerpts from her excellent article:

Today, classes of 45 students or more are not uncommon in most secondary schools. (This excludes kindergarten through third-grade classes, which receive state funding specifically for class-size reduction.).

If the district truly wants its students to learn more, it should get rid of Section 1.5 and immediately begin hiring 2,000 new teachers to meet the class-size goals that are already laid out in the current contract. [Section 1.5 is a waiver from a class-Size reduction agreement.]

This would cost $200 million more each year. That may sound like a lot, but the district has a minimum of $1.8 billion in reserve.

Opposition to class-size reduction comes from the top. When I chaired the Assembly Education Committee, lobbyists would often come in and argue that the cost of reducing class sizes in California’s public schools was simply too high.

When I asked these lobbyists where their own children attended school, many if not all of them would respond that they sent their children to private schools — some to schools where tuition could cost as much as $45,000 a year and classrooms would have as few as a dozen students.

In other words, although they paid considerable tuition rates for their own kids to benefit from small classes, they considered it perfectly acceptable for children who live in poverty — 80% of the LAUSD student population — to be relegated to the third-largest class sizes in America. Really?

There is also some quiet opposition coming from a few well placed charter-school advocates. Why? Because if the district were to reduce class sizes by hiring 2,000 additional teachers, it would need to provide 2,000 classrooms to those new teachers — classrooms that some charter-school advocates are eyeing for themselves.

The Board of Education at LAUSD needs to put its students first. Though it claims to do so at nearly every meeting and on seemingly all of its printed materials, its claims are often empty rhetoric.
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It is common sense that smaller classes make for better learning environments and higher grades and test scores. It’s also well documented.